Tuesday, January 26, 2010

R.I.P. Meredith Johnson 1958 - 2009

What does it say about my life that one of the best, most fun, most riotous, times I’ve had in at least the last decade was at a funeral?

Perhaps not a funeral so much as a Memorial for my dear friend Meredith.

I just returned from Miami Springs, Florida, where a small, but powerful group of friends gathered to honor the life of a gentle, kind soul, Meredith Johnson.

Meredith’s was not an entirely happy life. But she was one of my best friends. I met Meredith when I was 13 years old through my BFF, Susie. Susie is one of the cool people who instantly makes friends with everyone from the bum on the street corner to the City Council members. The thing about Susie, though, was that her Mother made her wear these really dorky glasses that were popular in the 60’s. You know, the kind that start out normal enough, but then flair up at the sides, making the wearer look as though they had a perpetual amused look. One word for them, which I will repeat: Dorky. Meredith did not have a very confident personality when she met Susie at Blessed Trinity Catholic School. She took one look at how dorky Susie looked and thought, “Maybe she’ll be my friend” Little did she know that Susie was one of the cool people. And thus started Meredith’s fold into the community of cool people. Meredith was an honor student. She was on the swim team. She was on the water polo team and she practiced yoga.

You know how you meet certain people and you feel an instant bond with them? I’ve learned that it doesn’t happen all that often in life. But that’s how it was with Meredith and me. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to laugh. A lot. Meredith told me that she liked me so much from the start because my constant laughing always made her feel like she was funny, even if she wasn’t. We became inseparable through our teenage years and into our early twenties. We also had a very tight knit group, which I have come to realize, as life has progressed and everything became about money, careers, family, etc., is a rare gift to be treasured.

When I “ran away” to California from my home town (another story for another time) Meredith had also moved to California. We resumed our friendship there. She didn’t last long in California before she ended up in the hospital with electrolyte imbalances caused by bulimia.

Upon returning to Florida, her life took a not so happy road. She got involved in alcohol, drugs, and eating disorders. And sex - lots of sex. Heck, at least she had one thing right!

Our lives took different paths, as we didn’t have much in common. Old friends would see her around town and report back to me about the sad state of Meredith’s life.

Last May, I was in Miami and I was suddenly struck by a fervent, desperate need to find Meredith. I dragged my husband and sister all over Miami Springs, to every dive bar and restaurant I could think of to no avail. As it turned out, that would’ve been the last time I’d seen Meredith alive. She passed away from liver failure sometime in November 2009. However, she was turning her life around. I came to find out that she was an active member in AA. But it was too late for her broken body to recover.

When two or more minds are joined, wonderful things can happen. And that’s what we did. All the old gang got together and threw the party of the century for Meredith. Suffice it to say that I was this close to convincing Jim to get a tattoo, and just a few sales pitch words away from talking Charlie into shaving his ZZ Top beard. Hey guys, beards grow back. Tattoos? Can’t guarantee anyone a safe removal of my name from their bicep.

Would Meredith still be with us had she continued to swim, practice yoga, become an ultra marathon runner, a surfer, a stand up paddle boarder and a vegan? Probably. But who are we to judge? Every life has value. One of the biggest lessons that all the old gang agreed upon is the fact that especially when someone is down and out – when we don’t feel like associating with them because we think we might catch whatever they have – that is the time to reach out with a smile, a helping hand, food, a shoulder to cry on, or just an ear to listen.

She was my friend. It’s not the end.

Some wonderful philosophers, The Beatles, said it this way:

And now the time has come, so my love, I must go. And if I lose a friend, in the end you will know - someday you’ll find that I have gone. But tomorrow may rain so I’ll follow the sun.

It is with much love, laughter, heart and soul, that I encourage you to follow the sun and reach out to all the lives you touch.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing the beautiful memory of your dear friend...I pray she has found peace...